I'm a NYC lawyer.
You can relax about this. So long as you are careful about a couple of things, this will come out all right for you. But you do have to take care. A petit larceny
is what USCIS calls a crime of moral turpitude, and though it's no big deal for a US citizen, as misdemeanors
go, it's a very big deal for someone here on a visa.
Your offense is an A misdemeanor in NYS, which has a maximum possible penalty of a year in jail, but you will not have to worry about jail, and you will not have to worry about having a misdemeanor conviction either.
Your first day in court
is called your Arraignment. That is when the court reads out the charges to you and asks you how you plead. There is only one answer you should give at this time. That is NOT GUILTY. That is the only one that keeps all of your rights open.
Then the judge will turn to the DA and ask whether they have an offer for you. The DA will offer you a plea possibility to a violation. It will almost certainly be either a plea to Section 240.20 (disorderly conduct
) or to criminal trespass (section 140,05). If you were offered one of these two charges and you wanted to get rid of your case, you could plead guilty, pay a fine, and you'd be guilty of a violation. A violation is NOT considered a crime but like the criminal court equivalent of a traffic ticket. You could sy you have never been convicted of a crime and after a year it will automatically seal, so long as you don't do anything this silly again.
You would have to disclose this to USCIS when they ask about your criminal history, but as long as you do it will not cause you to fall out of status. You will just want to eventually get what they call a certificate of disposition, and the arrest report, so that if they inquire about this when you enter ad exit the country, they can see that it was a violation and not a crime.
There is something a little bit better than a plea to a violation. It is called an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal. (ACD) It's a conditional dismissal where you don't have to plead guilty to a thing. You DO have to stay out of trouble for 6 months. After that it seals automatically.
So, going backward a bit, when the judge says to the DA, "Do the People have an offer?" and the DA offers the trespass or disorderly conduct, you can say, "Can I get an ACD, Judge?" The worst he will do is say no, but if he says yes, it's a better deal for you, because then you don't have to plead guilty to anything at all.
If you are an executive in Finance, you are likely not going to be able to get a free lawyer when you show up on the case. You can afford to hire one. I would have recommend having one. You can do all of this above that I have told you without one, but since you are really not at all familiar with our legal system and because you have a lot at stake, it's better to be overcautious than not.
Things you don't want to do? You don't
want to plead guilty to petit larceny. It's a misdemeanor. Neither USCIS nor the financial industry will like that. You also do not want to admit on the record that you switched tags. If you plead guilty to the violation or get the ACD you will not have to.
And that's about it! This should all be over on the same day.